Whether the selection criteria for PVE programming needs to be explicit and find a way to identify and prioritise those who are genuinely at risk or whether it should prioritise broader vulnerability is not an easy decision to make. A narrow focus can carry the risk of stigmatisation for programme participants and miss those potentially on the cusp of vulnerability. It can unwittingly raise the profile of the intervention, and risks provoking a hostile response from VE organisations and/or the wider community.The language around PVE programming frequently references the need to target ‘at-risk communities’ or ‘vulnerable youth’, thereby labelling entire populations based on the presumption that they may or may not commit violence.

Taking a broader approach, rather than ‘capturing’ those on the fringes of risk, is also complicated and can miss focus on those who actually need the intervention or support. The stigmatisation that broad approaches are trying to avoid can achieve exactly the opposite and conversely stigmatise an entire community.

Targeting through identification of ‘hotspots’

Some projects opt for targeting by geographical location (hotspots) working with whole communities within these identified areas. Whilst in many ways this approach reduces risks of stigmatisation by narrow targeting, it still holds the dangers of having a non-tailored/ broad-brush approach within the hotspot area. How hotspot areas are chosen can raise risks, particularly in politically charged contexts or where areas have been historically marginalised and where geographic targeting would still have a stigmatising affect. In crowded spaces where a number of actors use similar targeting methods, this can result in a proliferation of PVE programmes in one geographic area with similar (or the same) groups thus having a cumulative stigmatising affect as communities become aware of the growing focus of so many actors on their region for PVE.

Using gender and conflict-sensitive monitoring to inform adaptation of programming in Nigeria

An International Alert programme targeted support to female survivors of SGBV committed by Boko Haram in Nigeria. This generated frustration amongst other women who were survivors of violence more broadly and had no access to alternative support. Consequently, the safety of the women who were part of the programme was at risk.

Identifying this through regular monitoring resulted in the adaptation of the programme. The staff considered the problem and discovered that the women’s real concern was access to economic livelihoods. The programme then created small-scale initiatives that worked side by side with the SGBV survivors. This provided economic recovery for all the women eligible to participate and through shifting the focus of the project together with the collaborative nature, helped reduce the stigma against the survivors.

Table 1: Example of risk mitigation around targeting approach (see also section on risk).

Mitigating risks to the wider community

  • Ensure that any decision on whom to prioritise is based on thorough context analysis.
  • Consider the impact, intended or unintended, of broad or narrow targeting on individuals and the wider community.
  • Ensure that the conflict analysis includes consideration of other groups in proximity to primary target groups.
  • Triangulate data from multiple sources to ensure a comprehensive understanding of the local context and target group/community.
  • Consider whether your programme might result in the stigmatisation of the target population group leading to internal and external suspicion.
  • Consider whether your organisation has credible community support for your programme.
  • Ensure a gender analysis of the VE context has been considered.
  • Consider whether your programme will lead to increased inter-community tensions.

Mitigating risks to individuals and/or target groups

  • Consider whether your programme risks the instrumentalisation of a particular group (e.g. mothers, religious leaders, teachers, young peacebuilders and activists, students) and what repercussions this might have.
  • Consider whether your programme will lead to increased profiling and harassment of target individuals/groups by other groups or security forces.
  • Consider whether your intervention might shrink the space for diverse views as target individuals and groups fear speaking out.
  • Ensure M&E design includes regular risk analysis as part of ongoing monitoring.
  • Review the specifics of targeting as part of the design process and link this to the change that the programme is trying to achieve.
  • Consider whether negative local attitudes towards certain groups and individuals are linked more to societal prejudices rather than proclivity to VE – in particular when it comes to young people.